In Renewal: Liberal Protestants and the American City after World War II (U Chicago Press, 2019), Mark Wild traces the achievements and losses of American mainline Protestant Christians as they attempted to renew their churches and their cities in the twentieth century.
Urban church renewal began as an effort to restore the church’s standing; in the process these liberal mainline Protestants adopted methods of social science and the language of urban renewal and secularization. Their campaigns embraced an interwoven relationship with government and local authorities all while maintaining an overarching belief in the goodness and righteousness of their Protestant influence and power. These efforts often collided with social causes and social conflict, including black freedom movements and the War on Poverty.
Renewal illuminates this important facet of American church history and complicates narratives of liberal Protestant decline.
Lane Davis is a doctoral candidate in the Graduate Program in Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University where he studies American religious history. Find him on Twitter @TheeLaneDavis.